The Sound of Grace (The Fruit of the Spirit is . . . Love . . .)

Have you ever been surprised by a smell or sound that creates a vivid memory of another time or place? It happened to me.

A friend e-mailed me a music video of a beautiful arrangement of "Amazing Grace." After the first three verses were sung, a bagpiper began playing—silhouetted against the evening sky. I was immediately drawn back to a long-ago autumn afternoon.

My husband Rich and I had been caring for my father for almost two years. We were both weary. I was also emotionally drained because I allowed fear of my father's anger to overshadow my life—now I faced that fear every day.

One afternoon was especially hard. Dad became upset and didn't want his dinner. The tumor which took over one side of his face now invaded his mouth. He could no longer wear his dentures which made it difficult and painful to eat. His catheter bag leaked during the afternoon and he felt frustrated and embarrassed which brought hurtful words. As we left I said, "See you in the morning, Dad. Call if you need us in the night. I love you." Silence.

When we got to the car, Rich said, "Let's go up to the arboretum for a walk."

"Sounds good," I said. The tree-filled park was one of our favorite places and I knew he needed rest and peace as much as I did.

It was a lovely, warm October day—that time between afternoon and evening when the light begins to change. As we walked through the autumn leaves, we began to hear snatches of a song carried on the breeze.

We followed the wisps of music. As we drew closer we realized it was a bagpipe playing "Amazing Grace." Hauntingly beautiful, the music gave me goose-bumps. I sensed God's presence in a way I hadn't felt in a long time.

We eventually came upon one lone bagpiper at the Viet Nam War Memorial. No one else was there. He looked about our age, so he may have been a Viet Nam vet honoring his friends who never came home. We stayed and listened until he packed up to go. We didn't say anything just nodded and smiled our thanks. His gift too beautiful to spoil with words.

That afternoon I began to realize it was the grace of God that sent me on this journey with my father. He gave me grace to face my fears and keep going—grace to do the physical things I thought I couldn't do. Grace in the form of a husband who loved me and cared for my difficult father with kindness and patience. Grace to begin to see my father with grown-up eyes and love him with a grown-up heart. I was filled with assurance that God had been with me every step of the way and already knew my tomorrows. 

My did died four months later with Rich and me at his side. The three of us had been through a hard time none of us would have chosen. But that time was needed for the grace of God to work in all our hearts, especially mine, and for us to see His hand and His will even in the darkest of our days.

Gradually Rich and I returned to the normal busyness of daily life. For a while, I continued to feel the power of God's grace in my life. But I have a short attention span and over time the memory began to fade. I no longer got goose bumps hearing "Amazing Grace"—until I hard the bagpipe on the video and it all came back.

I know there will be more "dangers, toils and snares"—they're part of life. But from now on I want to live in daily awareness of the wonder of God's love, His incredible saving grace and the blessed knowledge that:

"Tis grace that brought me safe thus far, and grace will lead me home."


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